I’m not as creative a writer as Shirley, but I wanted to share a few things after our Gulf crossing. I was reviewing our logbook and wanted to give a timeline of events as they unfolded.

We left Palacios on Jan 10th, 2008 and headed for the Dry Tortugas. We had just had a weak front come through the day before so had a fair northerly breeze. I had to run into Port Lavaca at noon to pick up a part for the watermaker that I had ordered so we cast off mooring lines at about 1410. After a very pleasant sail down the bay against a moderate flood tide, we departed the Matagorda Sea Bouy at 1830 and were on our way.

As soon as the sun went down the wind started coming up. We went ahead and reefed the main right away and continued on a port tack through the night in about 20 – 25kts of wind. The wind continued to veer to the east and we tacked in the morning (1-12-08) to an ESE wind thinking to continue our easting. Unfortunately after about 2 hours on starboard tack the wind backed to the ENE again and then died. So we motored about 4 hours Saturday evening in no wind.

Sunday morning (1-13-08) the real fun began. This was the follow-on cold front that we were expecting to give us some favorable wind for a day or so along with some rough weather and then blow on through. The day started with NW 10kts just after midnight and was blowing 30 kts by noon. By 1800 it had come around to the NE and was blowing 25kts. The autopilot took a vacation this day so we hand steered throughout. Monday (1-14-08) we had 25 – 30kts from the NNE to ENE all day. We blew out a seam in the main sail between the first and second reef points so had to put in a reef to the second reef point to continue to fly the main. Seas were 15 ft+ by the end of the day. While furling the genoa at some point  in higher winds, the torque from the roller furler ripped a small section of the sail down around the tack. No more genoa for this trip. Tuesday (1-15-08) wind remaining NE moderated briefly just after midnight to about 20 kts then continued to rise to 25 – 30kts gradually throughout the day. We got the autopilot working again in the morning, Hallelujah! It is worth noting that every evening from Sunday to Tuesday we could see lightning in the SE from this front that was supposed to have blown on through. Apparently what happened was that it stalled out in  line east to west about 100 miles south of us and we were stuck north of it in the wonderful NE’ly winds.

And so dawned Wednesday (1-16-08). We knew that there was another front (ugh!) coming through in the next 24 hours so we were doing our best to make some eastward progress. The wind was dead out of the east at 25kts and we were fairly close hauled when the staysail blew a couple of seams. So we dropped it on deck and began motorsailing under double reefed main which is about all we had to fly. (the storm jib we have is a wonderful sail, unfortunately I neglected to check to see if the hanks were operable before leaving Palacios…they weren’t so we couldn’t use the sail) By 0800 the wind was beginning to veer to the south (still 25kts) ahead of the approaching front. So we gladly pointed the nose straight at the Tortugas and plodded along under our reduced sail with the motor turning 1500rpm making up for the sail we couldn’t fly. At noon our position was N24-46.83 W086-59.0. The wind had come all the way around to the S and was increasing. We were still heading E and started seeing about 35 kts and took blue water over the bow a couple of times and I decided it was time to turn down wind. So we killed the engine and turned north and ran before some huge seas (definitely some 20+ footers in there) under double reefed main. We made 9.5 kts going like this for probably 6 to 8 hours. By Thursday morning the front had blown through and we had rapidly moderating NE’ly winds. By noon it was light and variable winds with mountainous seas. We found that sometime during this last blow we had blown out a short section of another seam in the main this time above the second reef. So now we had no sails to fly. so we fired up the iron wind and headed toward Dry Tortugas. The winds stayed very low and the waves gradually decreased until we arrived and dropped anchor at 1500 on 1-18-08.

Whew! We made it!

Well there are the facts, I’ll provide more commentary including lessons learned in my next post.

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